BROOKSVILLE - Red-light camera supporters maintain the programs are about safety first. But if a proposal becomes a passed Florida House bill, cities like Brooksville would not retain any money from the tickets.
On Thursday, the Florida House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee approved the proposal, THSS 14-01, which is sponsored by Miami Republican Frank Artiles.
The plan also intends to reduce the amount of red-light camera tickets from $158 to $83, and prohibit local governments from installing new cameras.
The next step for the proposal is approval by the Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee. A hearing date has not been set yet.
In 2013, Brooksville issued 20,652 total red-light camera violations, according to Police Chief George Turner.
According to Department of Revenue cited in an analysis of the bill, Brooksville sent $1,233,546 to the state between Oct. 1 2012 and September 30, 2013.
Local governments receive a portion of the funds collected: from the $1.1 million collected from the cameras from May to December 2012, about $590,000 went to the state and about $283,000 to the camera company, Sensys. Brooksville received about $267,000.
If the proposal is passed, local governments would only receive up to $25 per ticket to pay the red-light camera vendor and send the rest of the money to the state.
"Yes, we do get money, yes part of it is about money ... the program itself is about safety," said Brooksville City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha. "(Brooksville City) Council is in the position they have seen violations go down, and want to see violations go down."
Norman-Vacha said Friday City Council has moved about $100,000 of red-light camera revenue in both the general fund and multi-capital improvement funds over the last few years.
This past fall, City Council decided to dedicate the funds to road and drainage repairs, Norman-Vacha said, and transferred more than $550,000 in camera revenue to the improvement fund.
The city has budgeted $140,000 for drainage projects and $800,000 toward pavement management, and Public Works Director Richard Radacky is expected to present a plan to City Council in February.
The city manager said she thinks council members have been "concerned" about spending the funds on "one-time," much-needed projects.
"We're not beefing up the budget anywhere, we do believe roads and improvements on roads are safety issue and concerns, and something very necessary and needed in our city," Norman-Vacha said.
"It's all about the money, not about safety," said Councilman Joe Bernardini said Friday.
Bernardini thinks if cities and counties are concerned with safety, legislators ought to consider a "trigger mechanism" with the red-light cameras, studying the type of accidents and violations that occur at red-light camera incidents. If intersections are studied, Bernardini said, engineers could target any "flaws" in the intersection to make them safer.
If there's still a problem after that, cameras could be used as a "last resort," Bernardini said.
"Cameras are not saving anybody's life, they're just an enforcement tool," Bernardini said.
Bernardini added if Florida lawmakers want to get rid of the cameras they should and "not turn the authority over to the state."